Durham exit could end Blackwell career
Ian Blackwell's career may be over at the age of 34 after his contract was terminated a year early by Durham.
Blackwell, who played one Test and 34 ODIs for England, recently underwent the third bout of surgery on a long-standing shoulder injury and was thought unlikely to be fit for the first three or four months of the 2013 season.
Despite an impressive first-class record - he scored over 11,000 first-class runs at a fraction under 40 and claimed 398 first-class wickets at 35.91 apiece - he fell out of favour at Durham during 2012 and did not feature in their Championship side after May.
A destructive batsman and reliable left-arm spinner, Blackwell would surely have won more opportunities for England had he embraced the requisite fitness ethic. He attempted, on various occasions, to lose weight with varying degrees of success but, eventually, temptation always got the better of him.
Over the last few years his increasingly rounded figure provided something of a throwback to a more innocent age in the professional game. He was well suited to his sobriquet - The Blacksmith - and the county circuit will be a little less entertaining for the news that he laid down his hammer and tongs for the final time.
But he could play. His double-century for Somerset against Derbyshire at Taunton in 2003 is the fastest, in terms of balls received, ever made by an Englishman. It occupied just 134 balls, with the second 100 coming off only 41 deliveries. And, with his unostentatious spin, he took 43 wickets - 10 more than any spinner had previously managed in a season for Durham - as the county successfully defended their Championship title in 2009.
His sole Test came at Nagpur in 2006 - the game in which Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar also made their debuts - and, though he struck a typically commanding 82 in his second ODI, he failed to pass 50 in any of his other 34 matches and, at one stage in 2003, scored one run in four successive innings against Australia.
After making his debut for his native Derbyshire, he left the county - largely due to a dislike of Dominic Cork - as part of a widespread exodus and joined Somerset in 2000. He spent nine happy seasons at a club that has always had a soft spot for big-hitting allrounders but, struggling to fit in with Justin Langer's less romantic approach to fitness, departed for Durham at the end of 2008.
He may reflect that his career ended on a high. Loaned out to Warwickshire for the final few weeks of the 2012 season, he was part of the side that clinched the County Championship title and his last game was the CB40 final at Lord's. A future as an umpire beckons.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo